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"LET'S CALL IT A DRAW..."

....a common quote from Monty Python and an increasingly-heard sentence at the end of a County Championship match at Wantage Road (writes Alex Winter).  With eight draws in the last 10 matches at Northampton, the hosts have begun scratching their heads at how to produce more positive results.

In the past four seasons Northamptonshire have played in Division Two, 63% of home matches have ended in draws. The new ECB rules – giving opposition teams the option of bowling first – were certainly not written with Wantage Road in mind.

Head coach David Ripley said they were looking at what can be done to even up the contest between bat and ball: “We’ll be liaising with the groundstaff to try and put in what we haven’t got naturally here which is pace and bounce, without leaving too much green grass on the wicket. With the rules as they are, we don’t want to end up batting first on a difficult pitch.

“It’s still early and pace will come as the wickets harden up. We’ve got the option of leaving more grass on or maybe making it quite dry to provide something for the spinners. It’s work in progress to find the perfect cricket wicket without the best raw materials.”

Wantage Road has often proved a welcome venue for spinners. Most famously in recent history back in 2005 when Jason Brown and Monty Panesar shared all 20 wickets against Yorkshire. Captain Alex Wakely said he would welcome a return to those days: his early career was spent at short leg with Panesar in his prime.

“More spin is being used around the country,” Ripley said. “Which is what the ECB set out to do with the new rule at the toss. More runs are being scored and the games are lasting four days, so it’s been a positive start but I still think we need a better balance between bat and ball than we’re getting at the moment.”

Just four victories have been secured in the opening four weeks of Division Two matches. One of those was by Leicestershire, who Northamptonshire visit on Sunday. Grace Road was the venue for one of only three Northants victories last season but Ripley is expecting a different opposition this year.

“They have recruited some good players and have made a good start to the season so they are going to be tough opposition. It will be interesting to see what wicket we get – they have similar problems to us, without natural pace and bounce. The wicket last year was particularly green but we won even though we lost the toss and batted first so we’ll remember that.”

 

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